Morning Qualifying – History Lesson, Part X

Formula 1 World Champion, Juan Manuel Fangio in his Mercedes-Benz W196 during the 1955 Belgian Grand Prix.

In the span of 3 weeks, in the middle of 1955, motor sport history was irrevocably changed.  On May 25th, the  two-time Formula 1 champion, Alberto Ascari died instantly in a testing accident at Monza.  On May 30th,  two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, Bill Vukovich, died in a freak accident while leading the 1955 Indianpolis 500.  Then, on June 11th, came the tragedy at Le Mans.  By year’s end, races were canceled, major factory works teams shut down, and auto racing had been banned in more than a half-dozen countries.
Yet amidst these tragedies, there were great achievements.
Lancia returned to Formula 1 with their new D50.  Designed  by Vittorio Jano, its 2.5 liter V8 made 285 horse power.  The team, with Alberto Ascari and Eugenio Castellotti, were formidible, but star-crossed.  Ascari led the season opener in Argentina, starting from the pole and setting the race’s fastest lap in the process, when his clutch failed on the 10th lap.  At Monaco, Ascari crashed into the harbor on lap 80, while Castellotti’s Lancia finished 2nd to Trintignant’s Ferrari.  4 days later, Ascari was killed at Monza.  For the Lancia family, it was the tipping point for their stewardship of the family firm.  Deep in debt, and disheartened by Ascari’s death, they sold the firm, and the assets of Scuderia Lancia were given to Enzo Ferrari.
Maurice Trintignant got a surprise victory for the Scuderia at Monaco in the 625, with Farina finishing 3rd.  Farina turned in a fine effort at Belgium, finishing 4th.  Castellotti, who took over as number 2 driver, finished second at Zandvoort and fourth at Monza.  Most importantly, the got a free Formula One team, the services of Vittorio Jano, and their next Formula One car, the D50, plus a 5 year subsidy from Fiat to run the team.  Deal. Of. The. Century.

At the end of the day, the 1955 Formula 1 season came down to Mercedes-Benz and Juan Manuel Fangio.  Fangio won at Argentina, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy, while finishing 2nd in Great Britain.  Sterling Moss finished second twice, and won his home race at Aintree.
In the World Sports Car Championship, Ferrari, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz split the first three rounds at Argentina, Sebring and the Mille Miglia respectively.  Jaguar won at Le Mans. Mercedes-Benz swept the balance of the season with wins at the Nurburgring,  Dundrod, Kristianstad and the Targa Florio with their magnificent, new 300 SLR.   Mercedes constructed 2 closed 300 SLR Coupes for the Carrera Panamericana, but the race was cancelled in the wake of the Le Mans disaster.
As usual, we have our usual Friday morning clips to further illustrate the events.  Have a great weekend.




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